Chat: Middle East Expert Anthony Cordesman

We need to understand that when we have enemies elsewhere in the region, they're going to exploit it, and we've seen some of that from Iraq already. They moved a division, I think, to try to create a political symbol which will help Iraq break out of sanctions, to try to achieve a position of Arab solidarity. We need to watch very carefully what happens along the Lebanese border where there is a risk of further clashes either from the Israelis or the Hezbollah side.

But again, I think that the world has largely joined the United States in trying to bring this crisis back under control. Again, it's very important to stress that the Arab states have supported the Palestinians politically, but no one is talking about war or conflict or broadening the fighting.

But again, there's one thing I should add to that: We saw from the attack on the Cole (and that's what it seems to be) that extremists may attempt to use terrorism outside the West Bank and Gaza and Israel to block any kind of peace or any kind of negotiation, or to attack the US. That is always a possibility.

Moderator at 1:27pm ET

Rick Abrahall asks: Who are considered the moderate Arab countries?

Anthony Cordesman at 1:28pm ET

Basically another way of saying it is there are 21 Arab countries. The countries we clearly do not see as moderate at this point include Iraq. Syria certainly has a deep interest in this.

L. Williams from at 1:29pm ET

Do you feel that the world — in particular, the Middle East — is ready for a Gore/Lieberman ticket overseeing U.S. policies?

Anthony Cordesman at 1:30pm ET

I don't think that the Middle East distrusts a Gore-Lieberman ticket because Sen. Lieberman is Jewish. He's a very well-known figure — I think within the Arab community he's well-known and very respected. We've moved beyond the point at which you would paralyze American relations with the Arab world because we have a Jewish vice president.

Johnson from at 1:31pm ET

It would appear that the peace process is not only dead but has turned into a man-eating zombie. How can peace be maintained between two opponents when they go at each other's throats for the slightest of reasons (i.e. Sharon's visit) and neither side is willing to let go for fear of appearing to be a weak coward?

Anthony Cordesman at 1:31pm ET

First, they didn't explode at the slightest pretext: We were very slow in getting to the final settlement issues, they cut at the heart of both sides, and it was not totally surprising that when Camp David failed the situation exploded.

Second, I think we need to understand that regardless of how serious this violence becomes, at the end of it the Israelis and Palestinians will still be there. They have no alternative that is better than peace. They can't live with each other in a constant state of war. And while it may be a peace of exhaustion, at some point it will have to be a peace.

John from at 1:32pm ET

Does the U.S. not enact greater safety precautions around its warships during times of Middle East unrest?

Anthony Cordesman at 1:33pm ET

The answer is, it did have considerable security precautions. But there always is the risk that a terrorist can get through when you go into harm's way. We have to understand that when we take risks we also sometimes take casualties. This isn't a matter of having perfect security, because that means we can't act, we can't be a superpower.

Moderator at 1:33pm ET

Mr. Cordesman, do you have any closing thoughts for us today?

Anthony Cordesman at 1:34pm ET

I think what we really need to do is show a little patience and a little caution. We may see a tragedy in the making, and in some ways we have already seen a tragedy, but we are not at war yet, the situation is not hopeless, and there still is a chance for peace. So we need to be very, very careful about the language we use, and we should not give up simply because the situation has deteriorated.

Moderator at 1:34pm ET

Thank you for joining us today, Mr. Cordesman.

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